Professors Carlos Ramos-Scharrón, Eugenio Arima, Edgardo Latrubesse, and Kenneth Young recently visited Puerto Rico as part of current efforts to develop a new research project with local partners from the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras and Mayaguez campuses and the US Forest Service’s International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Project partners met for a one-day gathering at the Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation of the UPR-Río Piedras, while also taking time to visit portions of the planned study area in Northeastern Puerto Rico. Site visits included trekking through rainforest at El Yunque National Forest, snorkeling coral reef ecosystems at the Arrecifes de la Cordillera Natural Reserve, and visiting seagrass and coastal mangrove communities located within the now closed Roosevelt Roads US NAVY base.
This visit was made possible through LLILAS’ Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Faculty-Led Initiative. The initiative proposes the development of collaborative transdisciplinary research studies that help bridge the communication gaps that have historically existed between environmentally- and socially-inclined fields of study. This is particularly imperative nowadays when human impacts on the natural environment are being scientifically documented at the local scale, but are also widely accepted as being of global and socioeconomic significance.
Northeastern Puerto Rico represents a unique landscape to study the two-way interactions between humans with both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Sugar cane production throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20thcenturies resulted in the decimation of forest resources throughout the region. In combination with more recent land use patterns related to tourism and urbanization, land use has resulted in further natural resource degradation, particularly by deteriorating water quality and marine ecosystems. The study intends to uncover the history of the region from the standpoint of archival evidence. However, the study intends to challenge the traditional approach of conducting such research by consulting not only human-conceived means to record history, but also more organic alternatives such as oral histories and the use of chemical proxies found in sediment deposits and within coral reef tissue. Completion of these goals will require numerous disciplines including geography, anthropology, hydrology, ecology, history, and economics, among many others. The results of this research are meant also to improve land and marine conservation activities. Efforts are currently underway to solicit long-term sources of funding for this study.
For more information regarding related and other research, please visit the faculty profiles of Drs. Carlos Ramos-Scharrón, Eugenio Arima, Edgardo Latrubesse, and Kenneth Young. Please also checkout features on Drs. Carlos Ramos-Scharrón and Kenneth Young in LLILAS' Portal Magazine.